[Updated version from the original 2017 article]
Photography insurance: it’s a priority for professionals and hobbyists.
There are always quick-fix solutions for when disaster strikes. Smashed lenses can be substituted on the morning of a wedding. A camera can be borrowed if yours is stolen. But without insurance, your photography budget will take a severe hit.
A new year also brings new risks for insuring your photography gear and business. We’ve listed these below, along with solutions to common photography insurance mistakes that befall even the most experienced professionals.
How will Photography Insurance change in 2018?
Don’t worry, we’re not trying to be a fearmonger here.
Photography projects aren’t likely targets for a DDoS attack, but data phishing and malware intrusions can be a very real threat to any virtually-dependent business. Answer the invitation from a cyber hacker, and both yours and your client’s photos will be exposed.
Without photography insurance, common sense is the best defense. Weak passwords and pre-loaded “dummy” passwords in cameras and other devices were the main blame for The KrebsonSecurity fiasco two years ago. More and more photography devices are shipped with Wifi capabilities, so take due diligence and protect your data with:
- Strong passwords – We’re our own worst enemy when it comes to cybersecurity. Take time to develop a robust password scheme.
- “Zero knowledge” cloud services – These sites (Wuala, Tresorit) encrypt your data, making them safer than mainstream services.
- Photo encryption – One day, major manufacturers will embrace camera encryption. Until then, rely on these superb encryption apps.
- Direct sharing – Why not just hand your client their photos on a USB stick?
Drones and Aerial Photography
DJI’s acquisition of Hasselblad is a major moment for aerial photography. And the insurance market has taken notice.
New regulations and the risk of damage and/or injury make drones a deceptively risky venture for a photography business. One photographer is currently facing fines and jail time for crashing his camera drone into the Seattle Space Needle, and another was just convicted for accidentally knocking a woman unconscious with his drone.
For these reasons, brokers are increasingly asking about drone operations, and aerial photographers need to be aware of any premiums where unmanned aircraft are concerned. Even if a liability program covers all your business operations, you still need aviation risks checked off if you operate a drone. Otherwise, you won’t be covered if your business has a”crash landing”, so to speak.
How to choose Photography Insurance
Photography business insurance plans
Even the smallest photography companies require expensive cameras, lenses and computer equipment. How do you go about protecting your investment?
The size and nature of your business determines what photography insurance you need, and at which price. In the U.S., for example, an individual can register themselves either as a sole proprietor or limited liability company (LLC).
It won’t matter who’s name the photography gear is under — yours or your company’s — what matters is whether it’s used to make money. If so, you’ll need Business Property coverage. This protects your technical/photography gear, as well as studio furnishings like desks and chairs. Sometimes it also covers your office premises.
General liability coverage is another must-have, whether you’re photographing weddings or models in your studio. It could help pay for medical/legal costs in case of an accident (including consultations), or cover the replacement charge for any damaged items. Large clients will only hire you if you meet a minimum amount of coverage, so there’s really no option (or reason!) to avoid liability coverage.
Other common insurance types include:
- Business Interruption coverage – replaces your income in case of fire or any other disaster
- Inland Marine Insurance – For when your property is stolen or damaged on location or in transit
- Auto Liability – for, say, when someone breaks your car window and steals all your lighting equipment
- Studio Employee Compensation – Pays medical bills and lost wages for work-related illness or injury
Become a member of a Photography Society
Photography trade associations offer countless benefits to their members, and one of the most popular is insurance.
The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), for example, is partnered with various photography insurance companies and programs. It’s not only for photography gear: the ASMP offers access to various forms of business liability and health plans for individuals, groups, and freelancers.
For a yearly fee, this is obviously more affordable than other insurance options. You also get to enjoy various other perks such as photography festival/show discounts, portfolio listings, and free guides.
Using your Homeowner’s Insurance
Amateur, hobbyist and dabbling photographers: take advantage of your insurance’s personal articles policy! This will differ between companies and countries, but many will specifically insure photography gear from theft and accidental damage, even if you travel.
Will it affect your premium rate? That all depends on how many additional items you add, and the size of any claims you end up making.
Note that this won’t cover maintenance and any wear and tear. Furthermore, if you take photographs or sell work as an LLC, then your gear cannot be insured under a personal property or umbrella plan. Even if it’s used for business only 5% of the time…
Photography insurance for used gear?
Second-hand cameras and lenses make the burden of budgeting so much more bearable. Thankfully, preowned photography equipment is insurable, even if the original seller didn’t give you any proof of purchase.
The terms will vary between insurers. Some may ask for a list of the used gear, the nominal value of each item and some proof of ownership. If the second-hand item is stolen or accidentally broken, then the insurer will usually pay out the market value. In practice, you should try and insure your used kit for a sensible replacement value.
Photography insurance for different focuses
Sports, wildlife and travel photography are just three specialties where insurance becomes…complicated.
It’s not all about the risk to your equipment either. Football fans could trip up on your equipment. You might ruin a major play whilst trying to get a shot. An animal is startled by your flash and stampedes into your car — believe it or not, insurance companies specifically insure against these things!
Remember that sports and wildlife photography are seasonal vocations. Luckily, there are many insurance companies who will cover you for set periods of time, rather than annually.
Insurance for Rented Photography Gear
Most lens rental companies offer insurance at the time of rental. However, you should always read the terms & conditions carefully. Will they pay the full replacement value? Do they cover loss/theft as well as damage? Will you have to put the full cost of the rented equipment on your credit card as a hold?
Even if the company doesn’t offer insurance themselves, you can purchase short-term rental equipment coverage. The price may differ depending on whether you intend to use the item on or off-premises if the damage happens in another country, or if “loss of use” income is included.
Other Ways to Protect Yourself
These add an extra level of liability protection and can cover additional areas such as copyright and licensing. Be sure to draft under your jurisdiction’s contract & photography laws.
Most photography gear comes with a one-to-ten year warranty. Keep that little card with your purchase, and you could save tonnes of money and insurance-induced-headaches.
If your entire photography setup is tragically lost, insurers can cover the downtime. However, if you don’t want that job opportunity or client to slip away, make sure you’ve got a second shooting bag that you can access when needed.
Apps & Gadgets
There’s a bunch of brilliant life hacks to help you avoid disaster. GPS trackers, alarm systems and even Registering with the Copyright Office are all forms of personal prevention.
Things To Be Wary of:
Item Beyond Repair?
Typically, photography insurance covers the full cost of a repair, including shipping, parts, and labor. However, when your camera or lens is a write-off, some will source a replacement for you. To ensure a successful claim, you should keep records or photographs of the purchase price, date of purchase, and serial numbers.
Discontinued Lenses and Accessories
However, don’t expect your insurer to replace a lens, flash or camera that’s no longer in service. When choosing insurance, ensure you’re paying for “replacement value”, “day value” or some similar term. If so, you should be entitled to an item of similar specification.
As previously mentioned, a standard equipment policy won’t cover the depreciation of a camera or lens. An “indemnity policy” will assess the ongoing condition of your gear, and match any replacement to its last usable state.
Do you have any sage wisdom regarding photography insurance? Or perhaps a remarkable story about how amazing/useless your insurer turned out to be? If so, get in touch via the Pixsy Facebook and Twitter, and we may feature it in a future blog post.